Author Archives for thewelbelovedclub

Sunday 5th January – a fresh start

So here we are – our first lunch of 2020! I’m not quite sure where the time has gone, but it’s now just over two years since I first asked my friends on Facebook to help me start The Welbeloved Club. Back then, I asked for £1,000 to help get me started, with the aim of providing 48 people with lunch at The Hailey Centre in Sawbridgeworth. I soon reached and exceeded the target, roped in a few volunteers, bought some equipment and convinced my mum to ‘help’. The conversation went along the lines of “Mum, I’m thinking of doing this, do you reckon you could help me cook some food?” THANKFULLY she agreed (although Mum, do you remember being a little bit sceptical at first?!) and here we are. We have a bigger venue, the longest list of names you’ve ever seen, over 30 volunteers and even polo shirts to match.

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January for us got off to a bit of a hairy start – it had been just over 5 weeks since our December lunch so it took a while to get back into the swing of things. However, it didn’t take long before everything was back to normal and we were ready to serve our first lunch of the year. On the menu was roast pork, crackling (of course) and veg, followed by homemade ginger pudding and white sauce. It was a very welcome start to 2020 and as always it was lovely to see clean plates coming back!

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It was lovely to see so many familiar faces back for lunch after the Christmas break. With the lunch being so early on in December, it’s been quite a stretch in between. Having them back has served as a reminder to us all that despite The Welbeloved Club existing and giving them all a space to be with friends and company, it doesn’t heal the bitter sting of loneliness altogether. The majority of our guests were lucky to be with some family or friends on Christmas Day, but many of them were also alone. Due to not wanting to make a fuss and the classic British stiff upper lip, many spent the entire day not speaking to or seeing anybody and did not reach out. It’s what we expected, and despite being reminded daily I can’t fix it for everybody, it’s a hard pill to swallow. So, this time next year, I’m hoping to have something in place where those on their own will have somewhere to go or someone to talk to on Christmas Day.

Since the start of 2020, I have been trying to read up and educate myself as much as possible on the logistics and ‘back-end stuff’ of running a charity. Having only learnt on the job, there is still so much to learn and I’m accepting I can no longer do it alone. My aim now is to become a registered charity which above anything opens up more funding doors and puts us firmly on the map. We can hopefully reach out to the wider community and become your Charity of the Year, give talks in the local community and in Schools, inspire others to start something similar and much more. However with a charity comes Trustees, governance, laws and legal documentation and an obligation to stick to everything required of us. None of this is out of reach for us however, so I’m now working hard on making this a reality. I have taken steps to up our marketing game and have been in touch with a company to help us with our branding, website, logo and general marketing. We aren’t quite there yet but in a month or so I hope to have made huge steps forward in making this possible. So, watch this space!

On top of getting all of this sorted, I still have a lunch club to run month to month. The admin tasks are piling up and I find myself dedicating most evenings and weekends doing something for club, whether it’s filing, spreadsheets, purchasing or just reading up! Lots of people have offered their time to help me with small grant applications, volunteer admin, GDPR, risk assessment etc. – basically of the things I had no idea about and wouldn’t have even thought of without them! So, thank you so very much. I feel I spend my whole life thanking people and chewing their ear off about how I never take it for granted and remind myself everyday how lucky I am. But, I’ll say it again – thank you! I couldn’t do any of this without you all.

Next month we have roast beef and all the trimmings following by lemon mousse cake. No doubt it will be empty plates all round! Thanks to my sister, after lunch we also have a talk from a representative from Herts Police about fraud, scams and how our guests can protect themselves from falling victim to them.

See you all on the 2nd Feb!

Sunday 1st December – Happy New Year!

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Our Christmas lunch feels so long ago now! Back on the 1st December, we hosted our biggest lunch yet, serving in total (we think!) around 102 older people a full Christmas dinner and dessert followed by entertainment, gifts and copious amounts of mince pies, sherry and great company. It was quite an afternoon!

As many of you know, The Bishop’s Stortford Independent supported us last year to host our Christmas lunch and they pulled out all the stops again this year to help us put on a Christmas lunch to remember. They asked their readers to pledge refreshments, gifts and other items like crackers and tablecloths, as well as finding sponsors to pay for all the meat, vegetables, flower table decorations and other very important food items! It was a huge success, and we were once again blown away by the generosity shown by the amazing people of Bishop’s Stortford and surrounding area. Those that were unable to pledge gifts and other items made donations instead, or offered their time on the day to make sure we had enough helpers. Editor Paul came along to help too, and meet some of the guests benefitting from the incredibly generous appeal. Christmas can be a very exciting time of year, but for us it has also been a time of reflection, generosity and a time to give back to those who find Christmas difficult. We have SO many people to thank but virtually impossible to name you all one by one, so on behalf of everyone at The Welbeloved Club (including our guests), please take this as a huge THANK-YOU for supporting us this Christmas.

 

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The afternoon was especially fun as we just had so much going on! We were delighted to be joined by Darrell Williams, who entertained our guests with lots of Christmas songs and some sing-a-long classics including Deliah and Sweet Caroline. We all commented on how we had never seen so many people get up to dance and join in (maybe the sherry helped??) and it was such a pleasure to see so many of our guests enjoying their afternoon. Hosting our Christmas lunch at the very beginning of December always worried me a bit as ideally, the closer to Christmas the better. However, looking back I think everyone had such a good time I’m confident it would have provided a lot of comfort when returning to an empty house. The mood was high and nobody walked away empty handed thanks to the adorable Rorie and Maisie!

A few days after the lunch, I was able to read back some of the messages in the Christmas cards given to me on the day. The general theme was very heartwarming, with many thanking us for our hard work, dedication and how none of it goes unnoticed. Some told us this past year they have felt less lonely, and have made new friends at the club they would never have ordinarily met. Now they go out for lunches together, go shopping together and even just call up for a chat. Result!

I wonder what Doris would have made of this. Nearly two years in, I wonder how she would feel about being somewhat of a local celebrity, or people coming together at a club named after her to make friends. I think the fact they are enjoying fantastic food cooked by her granddaughter would have made her very proud, given the fact she clearly taught mum all she knows! But we’ve had conversations about the fact she would likely be very embarrassed and proud all at the same time. My memories of her before falling ill are very hazy, but I would like to think she would be overjoyed.

2020 I’m hoping will be a year of growth, and hopefully this time next year we will be a registered charity – that’s our dream! There is a lot of work to be done but I’m committed to dedicating more time to the club and growing it even more so we can ultimately help even lonely older people.

Thank you all so so much for all of your support in 2019, we wish you all a very Happy New Year! See you on Sunday 5th January!

 

The Bishop’s Stortford Independent Christmas Appeal

We are so fortunate that our local newspaper (Bishop’s Stortford Independent) are hosting another Christmas appeal for us, in order to give all of our guests a Christmas to remember.

If you would like more information on how you can get involved and support the appeal, please follow the link below:

https://www.bishopsstortfordindependent.co.uk/news/indie-christmas-dinner-appeal-help-us-give-the-lonely-elderly-a-festive-feast-to-savour-9090883/?fbclid=IwAR2rJ4QkreUA6tt_Zt8JelJVDGFUd-A63yAcYL6CT248K-VAFj65jRUGEDQ

Thank you!

Sunday 3rd November – Remembrance

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This was our second November lunch since we started, and it proved just as special as the last! We decided to stick with the Remembrance theme and this time, we thought we would trial laying the tables out a little differently.

The Welbeloved Club has always and will always be about making friends, meeting someone new and chatting to someone you may never have met had it not been for the club. Having individual tables worked well and definitely gave guests a chance to chat and share interests. However, I felt it was limiting people to their table. Once everyone had been a few times, the tables were staying very similar and as a result, it didn’t provide much opportunity to meet new friends. So, we tried a ‘street party’ type layout and I think it went really well! It really opened the tables up and gave guests a chance to chat to more people, see more faces and of course, join in with our singer for the afternoon.

I am acutely aware the above picture highlights exactly how many people we had with us last month. It’s quite incredible – over 100 people joined us. Our highest yet! Gosh. What are we thinking? What business do we have hosting an event for this many people!? It is of course a huge achievement and one I am incredibly proud of, but also a very overwhelming experience. I would be totally lost without my mum who essentially runs the club month to month while I continue to work full-time. So, as well as the cooking, she is doing a lot of the admin, planning, correspondence and restocking. I owe her so much, so it seems only right I tell you all now what a total superstar she is!

So, lunch this month was beef cobbler followed by sticky toffee pudding. Cobbler for anyone unfamiliar with the term is a savoury scone, almost like a giant dumpling. It was totalllllly delicious. The scones were homemade in the morning, and cooked beautifully in our new oven! Sticky toffee pudding as you can only imagine was a delight, with everyone commenting on just how light and fluffy it was but also what a treat to have with ice-cream. Basically, just another reason why mum is totally ace!

We welcome back our singer from last year, Diane Moore-Cowell. We absolutely loved having her with us last year that we just had to get her back. She gets everybody up on their feet dancing, singing and just having such a great time. She is, of course, totally gorgeous and looks so fantastic in her wartime outfit. She was however promptly informed that she would have been told off had this been her real uniform as I think it was either banned to wear make-up or perfume? One of the two. She was let off though (thankfully!) and gave us an hour of entertainment and got everyone in the nostalgic mood.

Are we now really at the last lunch of the year? I can’t quite believe where the time has gone. I have been busy writing over 100 Christmas cards (not all at once!) and putting together our 2020 menu. I’m also busy renewing insurance and mum has just finished our end of year accounts. It has made us think more about becoming a registered charity in 2020 as it will open up lots of different opportunities for us in the future. Watch this space!

As promised, this week should bring more information on the Bishop’s Stortford Independent’s Christmas appeal, in aid of our club! You will be able to find out more information on how you can support us, how you can get involved and what we need! The paper comes out on Wednesday and will have further information online.

See you on the 1st for Christmas!

Sunday 6th October – a lonely season

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We are now well into our 2019 autumn season, the nights are getting longer and our guest list is certainly growing!

Autumn and winter can be a really tough time for those on their own. Christmas is looming, the weather can stop older people from getting out and with the nights drawing in, it is no surprise this time of year is said to be the loneliest time of year. It’s also Halloween season which, if not respected by everyone, can be very scary for older people for a different reason. If you are living on your own and are not used to knocks on your door, ‘trick or treaters’ can be very overwhelming. Nobody should be made to feel anxious in their own homes, and while nobody wants to spoil the fun, please be mindful of your elderly neighbours who may not want to be disturbed this Halloween night.

Our (very busy) lunch this month was roast beef, followed by apple sponge and custard. We always buy local when we can, and this month we were delighted to purchase the apples from my workplace, St Elizabeth’s Centre in Much Hadham. They host Apple Day once a year where guests are invited to pick apples from the orchard in exchange for donations. The timing worked perfectly so guests enjoyed apple sponge courtesy of a local orchard! It also means we were able to support another charity which makes it all the better.

We continue to welcome new guests every month. I would say at the moment on average, we are welcoming perhaps 3-5 new faces which is lovely! Two of our volunteers Jess and Hannah had their lunch with two new chaps and really enjoyed getting to know them. I joined them soon after and enjoyed being able to take 10 minutes to chat, as well as catching up with one of our regulars. It’s all very well cooking, serving and clearing away food, but it is the face to face conversation we are trying to promote. This doesn’t have to be just between guests – I”m always encouraging volunteers to take up rogue empty seats so they can spend some time getting to know our guests and who knows, likely be the first person they have spoken to all week.

I mentioned earlier that lunch was super busy. I was at one point worried we wouldn’t be able to pull the lunch off as I was limited on volunteers but sure enough that wasn’t the case for very long! In times of need, people pull together and as I predicted, I probably had too many at one point! I always try and stagger arrivals and departures so everyone can get the most out of their time with us but I’m likely to never get it completely right. I’m so grateful for every minute people give me, and for their patience when things can be a bit quiet for them or the opposite! It’s a work in progress and I owe them all a huge thank you for sticking by me.

As we look to our November lunch, I’m really excited to say that our singer from last year Diane Moore-Cowell is coming back! She got everyone up on their feet and gave everyone a really fun, uplifting afternoon. We loved her so much that I couldn’t wait to invite her back. We will be hosting another Remembrance theme, in which guests will be able to wave a flag and singalong with all their favourites.

I have another bit of very exciting news. I can’t confirm too much yet but I’m thrilled to say that the Bishop’s Stortford Independent newspaper are supporting our Christmas appeal again this year. We have already had a number of sponsors come forward to pay for our ‘Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh’ packages, as well as our ‘Little Donkey’ package. All will become clear next month but watch this space! Thank you so very much to Paul and his team at the Indie for showing us your endless support.

See you next month for Remembrance!

P.S – we have just joined the world of Instagram – follow us now at @thewelbelovedclub !

 

 

Sunday 1st September – some special guests

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Our September lunch was a very exciting one! We were delighted to welcome TV star Jeff Brazier, his wife Kate and two sons Bobby & Freddy. Jeff got in touch with me a few months ago via the Postcode Lottery (we had previously had a grant from them) to explain that his youngest Freddy had expressed an interest in wanting to volunteer! He was looking around his local area and wondered if we had room to accommodate. Jump forward a month and we were thrilled to have the whole family with us on the day. With the help of our other loyal volunteers, they were soon thrown into the madness of prepping and serving, before getting stuck into the demanding task that is clearing away! It was great to have them all with us, and I hope Freddy enjoyed it as much as he had hoped to!

On the menu was a roast chicken meal, followed by my favourite – jam roly-poly! This month however, we had our first go on the new oven!! It made SUCH a difference, the main one being the potatoes were cooked perfectly, and on time. It is very user-friendly, and easy to store away in between lunches. It’s completely portable too so we can set it up wherever we need, and can take it with us on the road once we eventually get to that point. Thank you all once again for your kind donations in making the purchase happen, as well as East Herts Council for the £1800 grant that essentially made it possible.

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We are coming towards the end of another year – I can’t believe where the time has gone. The number of people that come to dine with us are the highest they have ever been, and now every time people call up to join, they shower us with compliments and insist they must join to see what all the fuss is about! Our proudest reminder is the fact we now have groups of friends that met through coming for lunch, and some even realised they lived just doors away from each other! It’s a wonderful thing to know we are putting positivity into a life that before club had only known sadness and isolation for many years. As a reminder: (Taken from Age UK)

3.6 million
… older people in the UK live alone, of whom over 2 million are aged 75+.
1.9 million
… older people often feel ignored or invisible.
15 cigarettes
Loneliness can be as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

 

The next few months will see us welcome some entertainment! I’m very grateful to Diane, who will be coming back for our Remembrance lunch on November to sing! It was great to have her last year, and everyone really enjoyed heading back down memory lane. Come December, we have a new singer who will be joining us to sing some classics and get us in the mood for Christmas. More info to follow soon!

A huge thank you to our volunteers again who make it all possible – especially for this lunch just gone. It was very busy and everyone showed such dedication and commitment to a very tiring job – all from the goodness of their hearts. We love you and want you to know how much we appreciate your time and efforts. This includes my mum who helps me run the club month to month. She is always coming up with ideas on how to make it easier for me while I’m still working full-time and I couldn’t do it without her.

This month is the last time we are donating our raffle money, and the final charity is the Campaign for Dignity in Dying. Although deemed controversial by some, to me it isn’t and having worked in roles that deal with these sorts of conversations, it’s a campaign I feel has no opposing argument.

See you on on the 6th October!

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Sunday 4th August – no slowing down

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It was around this time two years ago that I first thought launching this club was actually doable. The thought was there but it was very much in its beginning stage and filled with doubt over whether or not I could afford to do this. Could I afford to run this club? Could I afford to do it for free and expect everyone else to do it for free? What is everyone else going to say? What if nobody else gets it?

I went for it anyway, and slowly put the feelers out there as to whether or not there would be enough interest and if people would financially support me as well as emotionally, physically and everything else that comes with it. Here I am two years later, and as I write I’m leaning over a pile of five more registration forms, more raffle ticket books than I know what to do with and a picture of Grandma (Doris) right next to me. We actually all think she would be highly embarrassed we’ve made such a fuss of her and her name but in our eyes, she was totally worth it.

This month was tooooootally my favourite dinner ever! Chicken and mushroom pie followed by banoffee pie. All the pies, all the feels. Our butchers in Snowley Parade continue to give us ridiculously generous discounts and this month was no different so, thank you Bob and Jan!

We were joined again as ever by our band of loyal supporters. More than anything now, The Welbeloved Club has become a social gathering for us just as much as our guests! I now get to see my dearest friends and family on a monthly basis and have made new friends that I would never have met had it not been for club. I think I said it a while back but, I also love seeing my friends and family from different circles come together and bond, knowing it was me that made that happen. We’ve shared a lot as a group, and I know we have found comfort in each other when we least expect it (while preparing vegetables for example!).

This month was also the first time for some of our new guests. Some of the bravery I’ve witnessed has been incredible, and I’ll never get used to that. Even at an older age, the courage it takes for someone to walk in alone having not met anyone before and having just recently lost their partner of 60+ years, is something beyond me. And this person is simply just saying, I need some company now more than ever. Life happens to all of us, and while I’m able to I’ll always do my utmost to provide an atmosphere where someone can come and be with friends and talk to me. Mum and I joined a table for our lunch, and in that short space of time we learnt all about how Frank met his wife, how it was love at first sight, what times were like back then and how long they were married. It was the best lunch ever.

As you may have seen on our Facebook page, we finally bought our new oven!!! It’s so posh and lovely and new and just, so nice we don’t want to get it dirty!! But thanks to East Herts Council, we can now start making proper expansion a reality. Thanks to everyone including our guests who have supported us to the point where we actually need a new oven!

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Next month (or I should say this Sunday!) I’m delighted to say we will be joined by some special guests who will be coming to help us. More details to follow in next month’s blog!

And finally, our raffle money this month of course went to The Silverline, a charity doing what we do on a much much bigger scale. They do fantastic work in providing a 24-hour helpline to lonely older people who need a reassuring voice any time of the day.

See you on the 1st!

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